How to Tell a Good Contractor from a Bad Contractor

It’s not always easy to find a good contractor and may actually take you some time and a fair amount of effort. Part of the problem is bad contractors often look and sound like good contractors at the start of a job but reveal their true nature once the work is underway. So you can tell if he you’re dealing with a potentially bad contractor or a have really found a good one, here’s some tell tale signs of both types of contractors.

Bad contractors are usually very likeable and promise you lots of good things at very reasonable prices. Unfortunately, they can’t usually follow through on their promises and may not be around to actually finish the job at all. Here’s some other characteristics of bad contractors

  • Don’t usually like to write things down or work with contracts. Often say things like, “we don’t need a contract, we understand each other”.
  • Try to convince you to use non-standard materials or not build to industry standards including statements like “ we don’t need permits they’re just a money grab by the city, county etc”
  • Need to be constantly supervised to ensure they are working and using the materials called for in the job specifications, then threaten to walk off the job when you supervise them ‘too’ closely.
  • Often look for payment upfront or at last a majority of the funds soon after starting the job. Or they claim to have made a mistake in the estimate and ask for more money to complete the job.
  • Make infrequent appearances at the job site and don’t supervise or coordinate the work of subcontractors or their own workers.
  • Frequently want to move onto another aspect of the job before they have properly finished the first part.

Good contractors display a totally different set of characteristics. You can usually tell you’ve got a good contractor when your contractor

  • Is willing to show you proof of his insurance, license and provide references to the quality of his work.
  • Wants to work with a contract that clearly defines his responsibilities as well as the homeowner’s.
  • Understands the importance and necessity of permits and building inspections to verify the work has been done according to industry standards and local building codes.
  • Doesn’t look for you to pay for a job upfront and requires only a small deposit to begin work.
  • Uses quality materials as called for in the contract and doesn’t try to substitute lower quality goods.
  • Shows up at the job site and supervises his workers and sub contractors.
  • Treats your home and property with respect.
  • Welcomes questions from the homeowner and/or designer.
  • Finishes the job on time or very close to the schedule.

Another characteristic of ‘good’ contractors is they are often very busy. You may not be able to get them when you want them but in most cases you’d be well advised to try and adapt your plans so you can get a ‘good’ contractor’. Working with a ‘bad’ one is an experience you just don't want to go through.

Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer with over 500 articles published on the web as well as in print magazines and newspapers in both the United States and Canada. He writes on a wide range of topics and is a regular contributor to He can be contacted at